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Will We Read On? Or Put Down The Book? Sometimes It’s The Little Things

Photo Credit: Simon Brass

There is not a writer in all the land who can write to please everyone. We simply cannot please everyone. Never-ever-ever! However, as readers we can sometimes unrealistically expect some sort of perfection—and if we are a writer and/or editor reading, perhaps we are a bit more arrogant in our persnickityness.

For me, it may begin that way as I read the first few chapters of a book, a sort of noticing too much, but then something magical happens and I tap in to the rhythm of the character’s world, and soon I am swept away! I love it when that happens—and if it doesn’t happen or something akin to it, soon I put down the book.

As writers, we do what we do and put our passion and love and work and angst—well, all that stuff—into our words and worlds. But that’s not enough. We must also know the whys and hows of some rules sometimes, even if only to break the rules effectively and with glee. Wheee!

Our stories become lyrical and strong when we pay attention not only to rules, but when we take care of/with our manuscripts so that our characters come alive and the reader forgets about the writer and is swept away.

Grammar rules are not as subjective as are those “rules” Some Writer or Person or Someone Somewhere Who We Often Call “They” suggest we follow (and often “They” are correct).  The RSWOPOSSWWOCT can vary from writer-to-writer and reader-to-reader and editor-to-editor. That makes things so super clear, doesn’t it? haha!

I hate putting down a book. Hate it! I won’t often do this and it takes a badly written messy book for me to toss it, but if I think a writer didn’t give a crap enough to clean up their manuscript, then why should I care enough to read their work?

Bad book tossing aside, there are things here and there that will bug me enough to bump me out of a story, and, if I am bumped enough, I may close the cover and never open it again.

Here’s a few:

The Surrrpriiiiiise! Ending. The one that makes me, your reader, feel cheated, as if I were along for the ride only to be kicked out of the car as the driver laughs and laughs at my dumbfounded expression. Or perhaps that hit-a-brick-wall feeling—I’m in that metaphorical car again but this time the driver runs smack into a brick wall while going “AHA! I got YOU!” I suppose the Surprise Ending is coupled with the I Just Ended It Here ending.

Surprise endings are great and wonderful, if the writer is effective in writing the ending that leaves the reader breathless with “Oh . . . my . . . god! I did not see that coming, but how COOL!” If your ending is only meant to “shock” the reader for shocks-sake, then you are going to piss me off.

The piss-off-a-reader ending is one you stick on the end because you are in a hurry to finish the story, or you just can’t figure out how to pull your character(s) out of the mess they made, or you are bored, or you are ready to move on to another story, or—you get the idea, right? Yes? No? Wheeee—ain’t writtin’ fun!

A sibling of the Surprise Ending is the ending where the writer has more books in a series but fails to let the reader know that. I read the ending, only to realize that if I want any resolution I have to purchase another book and another and maybe even another. Oh, that will make me sooooooo mad! Mad I tell you! MAD! Let me, your reader, know up front that this is a series where I must purchase more books to arrive at the Real Ending. If I know, then I can make a decision as to whether I want to go through a multi-book process, or not.

Of course, if I’ve read to The End, it’s too late to put down the book, but I won’t purchase subsequent books if I’m not convinced enough to do so.

Describing your characters in mirrors: Now, I will first say that I don’t mind when writers have the character look into the mirror and say something about what they see.  But, lawdy! Watch those descriptions of characters where they describe themselves in a way that we never ever do. We can think, “Dang. I look like hell. My hair’s a mess; my face is droopy. I look exhausted!” But, when, for mirror’s sake, wheeeen do we look into the mirror and think like this: “Betty gazed into the mirror and studied her strong chin, her piercing dark blue eyes that snapped crackled and popped,  her curly red hair that framed a pale face, the freckles that ran gleefully and cutiefully across her nose.” Who does that? Who thinks about themselves in that way? More realistic would be how we notice something like messed-up hair or smudged lipstick or a cut on the cheek. There are many ways to give a physical description, if that’s what you want to do, but looking into the mirror is a big over-used cliché. And it buuuu-uuuuu-uuuugs me.

Is this post flooding your brain? This is my own personal pet-peeve, but I do-na-like phrases where something floods a character’s mind or body, as in “Relief flooded Betty’s body,” or “anger flooded her veins.” “Lust flooded her loins.” Though, honestly, lust does feel rather floody in our loins; I’ll give you that—teehee.

Snuck is sneaked. No, really, it is! But, okay, that’s too super picky, as most people do say snuck instead of sneaked. In fact, in a poll I did not conduct and am completely making up but taking a really great guess at, I’d say that 8 out of 10 people say snuck; 98.5% of people don’t know sneaked is the word for snuck. 99.99999999% of people don’t give a shit about whether a writer uses snuck instead of sneaked. Actually, this doesn’t buuu-uuuu-uuuug me at all, or even slightly bother me. I just wanted to mention it. I dunno. In case you didn’t know sneaked is snuck or snuck is sneaked.

A Biggie! Book goes flying across the room, y’all! Not taking the care to proofread or edit your book—or have it professionally done, especially if you are self-publishing. This is a Ha-UGE one. This is one of the biggest things that will have me put down a book—and if it’s an otherwise good book, that’s something I do not want to do. But if it’s full of errors, I’ll be continually bumped out of the story. And I’m not talking about occasional errors; we all leave errors in our work and even editors will miss them. We do. But . . . whyyyyy? Whyyyyyy? Why, would you not proof your work, thoroughly and lovingly? Why is out work not impotent enough to make sure its clean as a wistle?

Are you starting to see how I’m both picky, and not so picky? This never used to bother me. Then, one day, unexpectedly out of the big ol’ blue sky, I started noticing that writers wrote started to and it started to bug me and I started to take that out of my writing in 98.999% of the cases, and I started to mark them in writers’ manuscripts 97.8889999% of the time. When we write, for example, “She started driving down the road.” Well, is she driving or is she not? If she is in the car and the car is rolling, she is driving. Picky, huh? Well, but why not simply “She drove down the road.” Or, “Bob started running across the parking lot.” Isn’t he running when he’s running? Why not: “Bob ran across the parking lot.” Oh, I know! I am being completely picky, but sometimes a character is simply doing what she is doing instead of starting to do it. Am I starting to make sense? Or are you starting to think I need to chill?

When I read back over my writing, especially in my first books, oh lawdy!, I want to fix this and that and t’other. But I will say that the more I know, the more I practice, the more I pay attention, the easier my editing process is than when I do not or did not know—you know? haw! The more we learn, the more we practice our craft, the more we listen to our instincts, the more we pay attention to the big things and the little things, the cleaner and more engaging our manuscripts will be. Most readers will not know what we have done to make their reading more pleasurable, and that’s just how we should want it.

Magic is another word for Hard Work.

What are some things that buuu-uuuu-uuuug you? Have any pet peeves? Can you spot any in my post that I may have left behind?—(teehee)?



About Kathryn Magendie [2]

TENDER GRACES, Magendie's first novel, was an Amazon Kindle Number 1 best-seller. As well as her novelist life, she’s a freelance editor, personal trainer, and former Publishing Editor of The Rose & Thorn. Her short stories, essays, poetry, and photography have been published in print and online publications. Her novels are available in print and ebook. Along with her freelance editing, she's website editor for Edge of Arlington Saw & Tool. She lives in the Smoky Mountains in a little log house in the Cove at Killian Knob in Maggie Valley, Western North Carolina with her wonky-toothed little dog named lil Bear. Sometimes there is vodka in the freezer. Critters love her. Some or all of this is likely true.